Competitiveness Fund Grants

December 20, 2007


Legislative Grant Program Invests in UNC Research to Shape State’s Economic Future

CHAPEL HILL -- The multi-campus University of North Carolina today announced grant awards totaling more than $3.8 million to support 18 faculty research efforts that hold strong economic development potential and could also provide real solutions to problems facing the state and lead to creation of new jobs.  Faculty from 13 UNC campuses will work collaboratively on these projects.

The awards allocate $3 million appropriated by the NC General Assembly earlier this year for University-based research on North Carolina’s economic future, along  with other University funds, to a series of proposals that will create new ideas and jobs in biotechnology, nanotechnology, optics, health care, natural products, environmental science, and marine science.

Funded projects were selected from 35 proposals submitted by 13 campuses, and leverage more than $4.4 million in private and federal funding. The nine “lead” campuses receiving grant awards include Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, NC A&T State University, NC Central University, NC State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, UNC Greensboro, and UNC Wilmington. Faculty at UNC Asheville and Western Carolina University, as well as several community colleges and private universities, will also play key roles.

The awards coincide with the completion of a months-long series of forums asking people across the state what they believe they need from their public University over the next 20 years.  Earlier this month, the UNC Tomorrow Commission released a series of draft recommendations that included strong support for more direct University involvement in shaping the state’s economic future.

“The University is committed to playing a critical role in helping to imagine and shape the state’s economy,” said Steve Leath, UNC Vice President for Research. “These grants will help us, in collaboration with local and state agencies and private businesses, to do the kind of research that will improve existing products and  processes and create new innovations that will fuel our future.” 

The grants include funding to improve the efficient development and use of biofuels through work being conducted by ASU, NCA&T, and NC State. Another pair of projects will fund research at UNC-Chapel Hill, UNCG, and NC State targeted at improving strategic water resource management and protection of water quality.  Other research projects will focus on the economic impact rising sea levels, novel uses of traditional crops, the emerging field of nanotextiles, and the production of natural products.

A full list of the grant awards with project descriptions and project contact information follows.


Appalachian State University

Improving Snowfall Forecasts in Western NC           $84,740

This project will improve weather forecasting, increasing mountain communities' ability to protect public safety and benefiting the ski industry. [Collaborating partners: NCSU, UNCA]

Contact: Dr. L. Baker Perry, 828-262-3000,

Optimization of NC Biodiesel Production through Data Regulated Processing of Variable Alternative Feedstocks            $275,000

This multidisciplinary team will examine the biodiesel industry from the production perspective, providing information needed to ensure high-quality fuel and byproducts. [Collaborating partners: NCSU, Foothills Bio Energies, Catawba EcoComplex]

Contact: Dr. Jeff Ramsdell, 828-262-7243,         


East Carolina University

NC Coastal Hazards: Economic Implications of Severe Storms and Sea Level Rise    $288,694

This research will provide much-needed information to coastal stakeholders and state policy makers about coastal NC’s vulnerability to severe disasters and their economic impact. 

Contact: Dr. Steven Culver, 252-328-6360,


NC A&T State University

Economic and Environmental Impacts of the Production of Crop Residues as Bioenergy Feedstocks                    $132,739

Researchers will explore the correlation between the costs of transporting crop residue for biofuel processing and the associated environmental impact. 

Contact: Dr. Mark Burkey, 336-334-7744,


NC Central University

Development of High-Selectivity High-Sensitivity Biochemical Sensor at the Center for Nanotechnology Devices at NCCU             $207,450

This inter-institutional team will develop a prototype biochemical sensor, miniaturized to chip scale. [Collaborating partners: NCSU, UNC-CH, Durham Tech., Wake Tech, Shaw University]

Contact: Dr. Branislav Vlahovic, 919-530-7253,


NC State University

Development and Application of Novel, Non-Toxic, Anti-Biofilm Agents              $300,000

This work will further develop various compounds directed at remediating the fouling of ship hulls, treating human disease such as cystic fibrosis, and reducing infections in hospitals and other medical settings.

Contact: Dr. John Cavanagh, 919-513-4349,


Nano-Textile Technology                   $207,668

This multidisciplinary team is working at the juncture of the textiles and nanotechnology fields. [Collaborating partners: ASU, ECU, NCA&T, UNC-CH]

Contact: Dr. Gregory Parsons, 919-515-7553,


Enhancing Competitiveness of NC Biodiesel Producers through Value-Added Enxymatic Process of Waste Glycerol and Low-Value Oils   $275,000

Researchers will convert glycerol, a by-product of biodiesel production, to glycerol carbonate, a versatile, high-value chemical. [Collaborating partners: ASU, Piedmont Biofuels, Foothills Bio-energies LLC]

Contact: Dr. Steven Peretti, 919-515-6397,


UNC-Chapel Hill

Promoting NC Economic Development through Strategic Water Resource Management $245,650

This project will focus on the application of research and expertise for regional water resource management, a matter of timely importance to the state.

Contact: Dr. Gregory Characklis, 919-843-5545,            

Establishing a Pipeline Program to Encourage Undergraduate Students at NC A&T and NCCU to Pursue Careers in Clinical Translations Research                        $210,000

This program aims to increase diversity among clinical investigators and clinical personnel. [Collaborating partners:  NCA&T,NCCU]

Contact: Dr. Margaret Dardess, 919-966-8991,


Instability: A Family of Medical Devices for the Continuous Evaluation of Mortality Risk in Critically Ill and Hospitalized Pediatric Patients                      $188,912

This project will develop and refine multi-functional biomedical devices for pediatric patients. [Collaborating partner: REALTROMINS]

Contact: Dr. Keith Kocis, 919-966-4601,


UNC Charlotte

Transgenic Soybeans Expressing a Vaccine for Swine                       $100,384

This project focuses on developing vaccines for pigs from soy beans. [Collaborating partner: NCSU]

Contact: Dr. Ken Bost, 704-687-8677,


Metamaterial-based Microwave and Optical Devices: A NC Foundry for Research, Design and Fabrication of Next Generation Electromagnetic Structures                      $185,400

This research team will design and fabricate devices to strengthen wireless signals and enhance sensors. [Collaborating partners: WCU, Clemson University]

Contact: Dr. Mike Fiddy, 704-687-8594,


UNC Greensboro

Production of Echinacea with Optimal Bioactivity: Improving Market Value of a NC Crop $363,846

Researchers will identify anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in echinacea and then develop growing strategies to optimize those properties. [Collaborating partners:  UNCA, NCSU, Gaia Herbs]

Contact: Dr. Nadja Cech, 336-334-3017,


Rapid Assessment of Food Allergens and Allergy Biomarkers                     $200,000

Researchers will develop a medical device to detect human allergens using saliva samples and identify allergens in consumable food products. [Collaborating partners:  NCA&T, LeBauer Health Care]

Contact: Dr. Yousef Haik, 336-334-4625,


Integration of Novel Technologies for Safeguarding Potable Water Supplies           $292,010

This project will integrate two water-monitoring capabilities for municipal water supplies and provide early warning systems related to water quality. [Collaborating partner:  NCSU]

Contact: Dr. Parke Rublee, 336-256-0067,


UNC Wilmington

Microbial Anti-Oxidants from Swine Waste              $116,507

Research will explore new approaches for using hog waste to create economically viable, valued-added products. [Collaborating partners:  NCSU, Duke University]

Contact: Dr. Lawrence Cahoon, 910-962-3706,


Initiation of an Inter-institutional Environmental Observation Network System for NC (NC-EONS)            $200,000

This multi-institutional team will develop and deploy an environmental monitoring platform in the southern Pamlico Sound. [Collaborating partners: ECU, NCSU, UNC-CH, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, NC Division of Marine Fisheries]

Contact: Dr. Lynn Leonard, 910-962-2338,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

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